There are many books and apps available now that offer meditations and guidance similar to a mindfulness course, so why pay for and commit to several weeks of a course when you can sit at home and pursue mindfulness in your own time?
Rather than either/or, it’s both and more!
“Can you learn MBSR from a book? The answer is yes … and no. Practicing mindfulness – the core of MBSR – on your own is possible, and indeed many people have begun training by reading books, but a book is not a substitute for attending an MBSR class. There is tremendous value in practicing in a group and receiving guidance from a qualified teacher. A class can provide inspiration, motivation, and a more comprehensive view through interaction with others. An MBSR teacher and the group can help you explore your experience of the exercises and take you to a deeper level of understanding. Although a book may be a great starting point, we encourage you to seek opportunities to learn MBSR in a class situation”
Lehrhaupt & Meibert, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction;
The MBSR Program for Enhancing Health and Vitality: xiv
Although speaking specifically about MBSR courses, we believe this approach is relevant to any of the mindfulness-based courses we offer. Whilst books and apps can provide flexibility in terms of working in your own time, at your own pace, a course offers the regularity which supports the discipline needed to develop your own mindfulness practice.
A course provides a safe place to reconnect with who you really are. Through the journey of a course together we explore, discuss, reflect and meet challenges and insights as they arise. A course is designed for your growth and exploration, and the course tutor is there to help you on this journey.
Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Attitudinal Foundations – also called the 7 Pillars of mindfulness – are the bedrock of our courses. These attitudes of non-judging, patience, beginner’s mind, trust, non-striving, acceptance, and letting go are explored in a practical, active way throughout the course and allow us to meet and highlight our judgements, perceptions and non-acceptance in a gentle, non-judging atmosphere.
Feedback from course participants
“Thank you, I’ve read lots of books on mindfulness and thought I got ‘it’, but books aren’t ‘it’ are they?”
“The MBSR course exceeded all of my expectations. I feel like I’ve been on a journey of self-discovery over the last 8 weeks and learnt strategies and techniques which will help me adopt a mindful way of life”
“I have felt good about taking the plunge to do a course, I’ve learned a lot from the teacher and it was interesting to hear the point of view of other students. I didn’t feel I was alone”
“I’ve learnt far more than I would have done from online/books”
“The leadership and sharing made me better grounded in the practice of mindfulness”
“I had some experience of mindfulness through a book, which helped, but the course pushed me (gently!) so much further than I could have gone alone”
“I had read a lot of mindfulness books pre attending the course. Been struggling to practice it. By attending it gave me the opportunity within a group to explore my blocks for not doing the practice. As a result of attending I have made many positive changes to my life. I feel ‘NOW’ – committed to practising mindfulness daily”
“The small group size and high quality resources are conductive for effective contribution and engagement and enable participants to develop a breadth of awareness. It is exceptional value for money and I would highly recommend it”
Who is a course for?
Some of our course participants have little or no experience of mindfulness meditation. Some people take a course for a second time and others have delved into what meditation entails through books or apps. Whether you have experience of mindfulness meditation or not does not matter, it’s your intention that matters. We ask people to bring what we call a Beginner’s mind, approaching mindfulness with a sense of curiosity and interest rather than ‘I know all about this’.
If you think you know all about mindfulness from a book, an app or a previous course there is little we can teach you. However, if you are ready to learn something, particularly about yourself, and be open to new experiences then mindfulness courses have a lot to offer.
There is always a commitment required for any course. As well as the commitment in attending each session of a course, each week you are asked to practise at home the exercises and meditations that we experience together in the session. The more you can commit to time practising at home, the more you will gain from the course. This is approximately 30 minutes of meditation daily for the duration of the course, alongside a willingness to explore mindfulness in your day-to-day life. We call these two aspects formal and informal practices. Taken together they support your efforts for mindfulness to become an everyday part of your life.
Is it the right time for me to attend a mindfulness course?
It is not unusual for people to attend mindfulness courses during periods of change and/or difficulty in their lives with many often finding mindfulness courses both more challenging and more rewarding than they expected.
There are however times when attending a group mindfulness course might not be beneficial. UMASS (the university from which Mindfulness-Based Interventions originate) list the following as areas requiring particular care ‘addiction, early recovery, untreated psychosis, acute depression, suicidality, PTSD, social anxiety, recent loss’. These circumstances or conditions do not necessarily rule out the possibility of attending a class as suitability is very much influenced by:
- your current psychological health
- the extent to which you have previously explored areas of particular difficulty and
- the support networks that you have around you, such as friends, family and mental health professionals
We would ask that if any of these apply that they are clearly stated on your booking form alongside details of the points above. The booking form is also an opportunity to make us aware of any other additional needs you may have.
If you are currently receiving treatment for an ongoing mental health problem we strongly advise that you discuss your course attendance with your mental health professional before booking. We would also strongly recommend not making any changes to any medication during or immediately after a course – however well you may be feeling at that time. Instead giving yourself time to fully establish you mindfulness practice and any new routines associated with it before considering subsequent changes with a trained healthcare professional.
Please contact the course instructor to discuss any questions or concerns you may have regarding course suitability. They will be happy to discuss your particular circumstances and how you may best be supported during the course. If a course is not felt to be suitable at this time alternatives options including, for example, healthcare professionals who integrate mindfulness into their work, will be suggested.
Our courses are facilitated by individuals from the NCMC team who, as well as being trained to teach mindfulness, each have a long-term committed personal practice of meditation and mindfulness. We all work from the premise that we will not ask you to do more than we do ourselves. Not only can a group course offer a great deal in terms of shared learning, you are also learning from how the course tutor models mindfulness based on our own depth of experience, knowledge and way of being. Books can’t immediately answer questions in the way a course tutor sat in front of you can.
How do we nurture our practice?
Throughout a course we recommend participants leave any reading or other exploration of mindfulness until the course has finished. This allows you to devote your time to practising and experiencing mindfulness rather than theorising about it. However, there are many helpful books and apps out there, and if you want to find out more before taking a course here are some we recommend.
Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of your Body and Mind to face Stress, Pain and Illness – Jon Kabat-Zinn
Mindfulness: An 8-week plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World – Williams & Penman
Headspace App providing sessions of guided meditation – Andy Puddicombe & Richard Pierson
Mindfulness for Health: A practical Guide to Relieving Pain, Reducing Stress and Restoring Well-being – Burch & Penman
The Journey of Mindfulness
Here is an opportunity to begin (or continue) your journey to inner peace and freedom. Does it sound daunting? Worry not, you are not alone! A mindfulness course offers mutual support from a group of people walking the path together. If you want to make some changes in your life but feel it seems scary to start, a mindfulness course can guide and support you on this journey – a journey back to yourself!